I'm not a Business Analyst, however I have been a hobbyist since 1994. Like many, I've experienced the changes with how Games Workshop release it's products. Join me after the jump as I give you my take on the changes.
1994: £102.41 worth of monthly releases, £13.49 of which is a Codex and some Transfers, the rest are metal models, no plastics.
Let get this out of the way. We all know the products they sell are luxury items designed to soak up our disposable income. Yes they're expensive. The amount of disposable income is unique to the individual. But how much has the pricing changed over the years? Well, it's steadily risen and never gone down. If you look at the 1994 metal Wraithlord it cost around £13. Its modern plastic counterpart is £28. 16 years later and it's not even double and the current kit is more detailed, bigger and has more weapon options. I used an online inflation calculator that assumes a 2.9% inflation rate. £13 in 1994 is the equivalent of £23.09 in 2014. So yes there has been a price increase on a Wraithlord but you're arguably getting a lot more for your money.
A recent change in the way Games Workshop releases models is the recent return of £50 start collecting box sets which are showing incredible value for money, the likes of which haven't been seen since Battle Force box sets.
One thing I think they could return to and get more people in stores is vouchers. The old White Dwarf magazines used to have vouchers in them for new store openings which were literally buy 2 get a third free including things like big box games. This is lacking from the current business model.
A typical monthly release from Games Workshop totalling £572... and that's only models, this total doesn't include their apps, rules or army books. Unnervingly daunting.
Back in the early 1990s, you were lucky if you got one plastic model a month. Now you're getting multiple plastic models in a week. The release schedule in recent years has been relentless. Weekly releases with regular codex books has actually had a negative effect on me personally. The negative effect on me is I use to collect The Hobbit, Warhammer and Warhammer 40,000 but with so much coming out I've sold off my Hobbit and Warhammer collections and now just concentrate on my 40k armies, because I just can't keep up with it. The other thing to consider is model count in boxes has gone down a lot. We use to get 20 plastic models in a regiment box set and it wouldn't cost more that £20. Now 5 models for £25 seems to be becoming the norm.
I use to buy every codex book and the odd occasional digital codex. I don't bother buying these now. When they replaced the Imperial Knight Codex after only 8 months and the 40k rulebook after only a couple of years (horrible copy and paste job) I decided I wouldn't bother buying all their rulebooks anymore. There was just too many of them. There is a benefit to the weekly release schedule and the torrent of releases, it's more likely that an army you collect might get a splash release one month. No more waiting 12 years for a new Dark Eldar Codex which was originally released in 1998 It was amended in 2003 but it was the same book) before getting it's modern era book in 2010 before being quickly replaced with it's current iteration just four years later in 2014.
The models are definitely better.
Releases in the early 1990s use to mainly consist of lead miniatures which were quickly switched to white metal which had a much crisper detail. Plastic models were quite rare at around one or two a month. Plastic models were dreamt of. I remember talking to people about their wishlists for plastic models, plastic Drop Pod was one of the top ones. I think plastic Aspect Warriors and a plastic Thunderhawk gunship are still on many people's lists. All the models in the 1990s were sculpted by hand, mainly larger 3-up models to get all the detail in. Working in this way did lead to scale issues like a Cadian guardsmen being the same height as a Space Marine. Other scale issues included models like Catchan Jungle Fighters having fists the same size as their own heads.
Ah Finecast, you won't be missed.
We can't talk about model quality without mentioning Finecast. On paper Finecast was a great idea. Resin models weren't a new concept at Games Workshop. Forgeworld have been making Resin models successfully for years. So when Finecast arrived and it wasn't the same quality as Forge World, everyone was disappointed. I only had a couple of Finecast models that were so bad they had to be returned and to be fair, Games Workshop were quick to send out replacements. But the damage was done to the Hobby Community and it's great to see Finecast has now been dropped for future releases.
For years Games Workshop would regularly release amended core rules. Edition after edition could be seen every 4 years so. In 2014 there was a change. Age of Sigmar rewrote the core rule and codex model that Games Workshop had been using since the early 90s. Now all of a sudden rules are free. Core rules are free, data sheets contain full unit rules and are released free in White Dwarf, in a dedicated App or even in the box of models you bought. Whilst they are perceived to be free, I do think the increase in Age of Sigmar model prices is to offset the "free" rules. Three Varanguard Knights for £60 is expensive but not having to buy rules is going to help offset that.
Another change in recent years to the rules is digital army books and datasheets. These are a great idea because it meant Games Workshop can get rules out quickly without the need for a print run (multiple languages printed and, delivered all around the world is going to slow the release). The other great thing is incorrect rules and typos can be updated in the digital edition on a regular basis doing away with the need for printing out erratas. Clickable links in the iPad versions would bring up the univeral special rules to save you having to cross reference the main rulebook. The Age of Sigmar scrolls take this one step further by not needing universal special rules and just having each unit's unique rules written out on the scroll. The downside is resale value. You can't sell a digital codex to a friend like you can a printed one this is frustrating because full digital codex books cost the same as their printed counterparts. They should be cheaper because there is no printing to pay for (there is however digital interaction to design and create, so maybe it balances out).
Old and the new, boxed games have always been a fantastic introduction to the hobby.
Games Workshop stores use to have games. You could walk into a Games Workshop and have a choice of Warhammer, Warhammer 40,000, Epic 40,000, Necromunda, Bloodbowl, Warhammer Quest etc etc. These were games sold instore that were every part of their Warhammer and Warhammer 40,000 equals. They were supported with full teams for Bloodbowl, entire armies for Epic, Gangs for Necromunda. In short Games Workshop made lots of games that were supported. Then Lord of the Rings happened and all these games were relegated to "Specialist Games" category. The term specialist game has a negative connotation with many older gamers. Calling something a "Specialist Game" is like taking the old family dog out to the back of farm and putting it down.
A selection of games that Games Workshop has produced over the years
My first White Dwarf, issue 175 costing £2.25 from July 1994
Finally lets talk about that old favourite White Dwarf. Over the years it's changed a lot. From the early 90s of being quite a thin monthly magazine to the mid to late 90s of being quite a thick magazine with a card insert, to being reinvented in recent years only to be reinvented just over a year or so later into a weekly format with a monthly sister magazine. All editions are great and all offered different things. it's current incarnation is probably my personal favourite. A weekly hobby fix backed up with a monthly magazine showcasing models from all over the world (including my own models). Free rules, missions and datasheets return in the weekly which mainly focuses on the weeks releases. We've recently had a free Age of Sigmar model and some Horus Heresy pin badges.
For the past decade, I would say Games Workshop has been trying to dictate to the hobbyists that "this is how we do it, this is how much it will cost, take it or leave it". Looking at recent events, I believe Games Workshop are changing the way they interact with customers. Very recently we're seeing a shift towards giving us what we want. Free rules is a great idea (even if the price is added to the models). Bringing back modern versions of classic games and making them permanent additions to store shelves and expanding the range with additional models. Not to mention the return of excellent value for money £50 army starter sets. All these things seem to point towards giving us what we want. There are still areas that are ridiculous like the inconsistent pricing (3 mounted Chaos Everchosen Varanguard for £60 doesn't equate to a collectable army).
However, the models are astounding, the business model seems to be changing and they appear to be listening to us, the customers. Let just hope our wallets can cope with the strain.
Have you noticed positive changes with Games Workshop? Do you feel like you can't keep up with it? Let me know your thoughts in the comments. Keep it friendly and remember we're talking about the changes we've experienced.